Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a 2010 comedy film brought to us by director Edgar Wright, best known for the comedy films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It follows the adventures of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) trying to win the heart of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). To do that he needs to defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes, who have formed a league just to stop any potential dates that Ramona might get. Along the way, Scott starts to mature as a person and begin to realize what it means to actually be a good human being.
Scott Pilgrim himself does not begin the movie as that likable a character. He’s actually fairly annoying and draws the crowd’s ire right from the start. Scott begins the film dating someone in high school, despite the fact that he himself is in his early twenties. She is completely obsessed with him, and he shows signs of affection for her. Then, Scott has a dream involving a girl with pink hair, and eventually runs into her at the library, a party and, soon enough, his own house. He treats his current girlfriend poorly, and eventually dumps her mere moments after being told that she’s in love with him. Now, with Ramona, Scott needs to defeat her exes in a way that roughly equates to boss battles in a video game.
Video game adaptations haven’t had a good history in films. They very rarely are any good, and the ones that are the ones that go away from the story of their chosen game. However, movies based on video game concepts, those have typically worked out much better. Scott Pilgrim fits into the latter category, with it actually based on a graphic novel. It takes place in an alternate version of Toronto, where everyone seems to have superpowers, amazing skill with weapons, or both. Scott himself has the fighting skills of a black belt in an unspecified martial art.
Everyone having powers does lead to some pretty stunning fight scenes between Scott and the evil exes, but that isn’t really what the film is about. It’s really about Scott maturing as a person, with each evil ex being the visual representation of a barrier he needs to overcome. In fact, the city of Toronto might be normal, with Scott being the one applying the video game logic to the city. It reminds me a bit of Calvin and Hobbes, with the video game rules replacing Hobbes. Scott may very well be dreaming up the large scale boss fights that he takes part in, and once the fights end, Scott gains something more than just bonus points. He matures as an individual, and ends up being a more capable person for Ramona.
The jokes are fresh, and while they are usually situational humor, they were surprisingly memorable and really funny in the moment.
The characters in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World are actually fleshed out far better than they likely needed to be. They all have a lot of emotional depth, and do a good job of portraying that on screen, even when the central focus is to be humorous. Scott begins as a whiny, self-centered brat, but it’s kind of hard to dislike him after a while. He grows on you, and after being pummeled over and over again, you begin to wish to see him finish off his opponents right away, instead of facing the grueling task that is usually required. Ramona has less depth, but begins the film being portrayed as too cool for Scott, but quickly ends up opening up to him. The rest of the cast also does a fairly good job, but is mostly there just for Scott Pilgrim to play off, and make jokes about.
What really amazed me about the film was how funny it ended up being. The jokes are fresh, and while they are usually situational humor, they were surprisingly memorable and really funny in the moment. The film put a smile on my face from beginning to end, and stayed entertaining throughout. The amazing part is that the film actually gets worse when the “boss battles” take place. Sure, they are fun and change things up, but when you really get down to it, the film is about the relationships between the characters, and the maturation of Scott Pilgrim.
Now, I didn’t exactly go into the movie expecting the best. I’m not fascinated with typical “nerd” culture, and I find Michael Cera to be one of the most annoying actors currently working. The movie ended up exceeding my expectations by a lot. This may have been helped out because I got to see Michael Cera get beaten up for a good portion of the film, but it was actually really enjoyable. It was engaging, action-packed, and most surprisingly, funny. It was almost a coming-of-age story, in a sense. It showed the maturation of an annoying young adult, into a slightly less annoying young adult with more responsibilities.
Conclusion: A riot from start to finish, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a fantastic action-comedy.
Recommendation: If you like action, comedy, or video games, you need to see this movie.